Sunday, May 16, 2010

Your Career and You...Graduation Is Just the Beginning of the Adventure

I have just completed what was, for me, a marathon weekend of back-to-back commencement ceremonies at Regis College, where I'm an adjunct professor teaching graduate courses in Conflict Management and Health Communication Management, and Curry College, where I'm full-time (soon-to-be) Associate Professor of Communication teaching the bulk of the Public Relations courses and finetuning the PR concentration.

As I've noted numerous times on my Facebook page as well as Twitter and LinkedIn, I truly am honored to have been able to play a small role in the professional development of the hardworking men and women who have passed through one or more of my classes either at Regis or at Curry.

Why? Because I loved what I did as a public relations professional for more than a quarter of a century, and I love what I'm doing now...sharing my knowledge, experience, wisdom, and cautions with the next generation of PR professionals. They are our future, and we owe it to that future to prepare its leaders to continue building on our own successes... and making their own.

I close out this semester and this academic year filled with hope and optimism. There are some amazing future professionals (in the case of my undergrad students at Curry) and rising professionals (my grad students at Regis) on the threshhold eager to prove their abilities both to us and to themselves. And they will. Of that I am confident.

But a note of caution to each and every one of these newly-minted graduates.

You will have to earn your stripes as we used to say (they probably still say) in the Air Force and demonstrate your capabilities time and again. But, for me, that's the excitement of professional life. I know in my heart that I am good at what I do; but I have to prove myself every day to someone.

You'll have to do the same. Accept it as part of the get to do what you're passionate about, but not everyone is going to automatically say "Oh, okay. You're the expert." Every day will bring new challenges, new opportunities, and new knowledge of your own strengths...and weaknesses.

Build on your strengths; overcome your weaknesses. Live your passion!

Because, if you press on and continue to build your credibility, you will be recognized more and more for your talents and your expertise. There still will be doubters out there, but they will become the minority.

One of the Regis College commencement speakers, Lydia Villa-Komaroff, PhD, gave an incredibly insightful speech about overcoming challenges as she progressed upwards in her profession as an internationally recognized molecular biologist.

One observation in particular resonated, and I close with her quote:  "Nobody will give you anything you don't deserve."

You've proven your abilities by earning either a graduate or an undergraduate degree. Now show that you deserve the recognition and the success borne of your contributions to your chosen profession, whether it be public relations, nursing...molecular biology.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Your Future after Graduation: A Spirit of Optimism is in the Air

I had the opportunity this past week to participate in two different but remarkably similar events.

I wrote about one, Curry College's Awards Night, in a previ0us post. It was a wonderful evening in which the accomplishments of both faculty members and graduating seniors were recognized. The smiles on everyone's face erased the angst of exam-taking (and exam-grading!) and absolutely underscored the value of going above and beyond what is expected.

The other was at Regis College, where I teach graduate courses in Conflict Management and Health Communication Management. This event was the students' presentations of their master's theses...a mini-show-'n-tell that gave each student a chance to discuss the topic on which he or she had spent what probably felt like a lifetime of research and writing. Some were visibly nervous; others were outwardly calm and collected. All were obviously delighted to mark the end of their studies while being cheered on by fellow students as well as faculty.

It struck me as I was ironing clothes (don't we all?!?) that this week marked a rite of passage for both sets of students. Their studies are officially ended, and they are now embarking on the next leg of that amazing journey called "life."

What I observed at the finish of each event was that each student seemed to stand a bit straighter and step out a bit more confidently, knowing that he or she had mastered this challenge and was prepared for what lies next.

And I, too, felt a stir of confidence. These future professionals (in the case of the undergrads) and rising professionals (the grads) have proven to themselves and to others that they are capable of taking on whatever life throws their way.

Will they encounter some difficulties? Yes! Will they sometimes question why they're doing whatever they're doing? You betcha!

But, as they move forward, the difficulties will become less so. And the questions will be replaced by answers borne of experience.

The cool thing for me is that I get to do this every see the results of my and many others' efforts to guide and educate today's students. And the results are the many successes of our students.

"For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed." (Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Your Career and You..."Just Rewards" are not "Just Rewards"

I had the pleasure last night of attending and participating in Curry College's annual Awards Night where the hard work of both students and faculty was recognized and celebrated.

Listening to the background on awardees' activities and accomplish-ments, I was struck by the overriding message of genuine dedication, belief in a purpose, and absolute commitment these folks have demonstrated. And I'm willing to bet that not one single one of them started out saying "I'm going to do this so that I'll get a cool plaque in the future."

Nope. I honestly feel that each person, student or teacher, was just doing what felt right to him or her. But the neat thing is that, at the end of the day, they were, indeed, recognized...and got a cool plaque!

We all like the feedback telling us that what we've devoted countless hours of energy and effort to was worthwhile. But students, in particular, need to understand that this is a significant milestone in their professional development.

It's not "just a reward" for doing something right...the proverbial gold star that you got in grade school for remembering to raise your hand to get permission to go to the bathroom.

It truly is your just reward for demonstrating to others...and yourself... your belief in a cause, whatever it may be, and your determination to make a difference.

I presented the Curry College Communication Department's "Public Relations Award" last night to a young man...a Communication major with a double concentration in Theatre and Public Relations... graduating senior Brendan Cawley.

This award was a tribute to Brendan's incredibly enthusiastic embrace of the virtues extolled by Edward L. Bernays (for some of us, the "Father of Public Relations") in his wonderful book, "Your Future in Public Relations."

Mr. Bernays had this to say: "Character, integrity, and a logical objectivity in the individual practitioner are the really essential attributes of any public relations man worthy of the name.

The public relations man must want to help people. Objective and logical though he is, unless he has at bottom a deep interest in people, organizations, and movements, and wants to give them aid in achieving a social purpose, something will be lacking in the relationship between him and his clients..."

Brendan has clearly shown his instinctive grasp of Mr. Bernays' observations in all that he has done while studying at Curry. And he will continue after graduation to amaze all of us with his drive, determination, and sense of professionalism.

These are just rewards...

...For us, as faculty, to see the results of four years of our efforts to ensure an excellent college education for the young men and women who entrust themselves to our wisdom and guidance.

...For you, as students, to see that what you do and how you do it are both seen and appreciated...and are one of the first significant building-blocks in the evolution of your life and your career.

Or, as Mr. Bernays also says: "To sum up, public relations does not mean selling a product, an idea, or a personality. Instead, it depends fundamentally on doing -- action and deeds that are geared to public understanding and acceptance. Words are only incidental to the process."